"It's not true," says a character in Jane Smiley's funny, passionate, and brilliant new novel of horse racing, "that anything can happen at the racetrack," but many astonishing and affecting things do -- and in Horse Heaven, we find them woven into a marvelous tapestry of joy and love, chicanery, folly, greed, and derring-do.
Haunting, exquisite Rosalind Maybrick, wife of a billionaire owner, one day can't quite decide what it is she wants, and discovers too late that her whole life is transformed . . . Twenty-year-old Tiffany Morse, stuck in her job at Wal-Mart, prays, "Please make something happen here . . . This time, I mean it," and something does . . . Farley, a good trainer in a bad slump; Buddy, a ruthless trainer who can't seem to lose even though he knows that his personal salvation depends upon it; Roberto, an apprentice jockey who has "the hands" but is growing too big for his dream career with every passing day; Leo the gambler and his earnest son, Jesse, who understands everything about his father's "system" except why it doesn't work; Elizabeth, the sixty-two-year-old theorist of sex and animal communication, and her best friend, Joy, the mare manager at the ranch at the center of the universe--all are woven together by the horses that pass among them: two colts and two fillies who begin with the promise of talent and breeding, and now might or might not achieve stardom.
There are the geldings -- Justa Bob, the plain brown horse who always wins by a nose, a lovable claimer who passes from owner to owner on a heart-wrenching journey down from the winner's circle; and the beautiful Mr. T., raced in France and rescued in Texas, who is discovered to have some unusual and amazing talents.
And then there is the Jack Russell terrier, Eileen, a dog with real convictions -- and the will to implement them.
The strange, compelling, sparkling, and mysterious universe of horse racing that has fascinated generations of punters and robber barons, horse-lovers and wits, has never before been depicted with such verve and originality, such tenderness, such clarity, and, above all, such sheer exuberance.
The Washington Post
One of the premier novelists of her generation,, possessed of a mastery
of craft and an uncompromising vision that grow more powerful with each
book . . . Racing's eclectic mix of classes and personalities provides
Smiley with fertile soil . . . Expertly juggling storylines, she
investigates the sexual, social, psychological, and spiritual problems
of wealthy owners, working-class bettors, trainers on the edge of
financial ruin, and, in a typically bold move, horses.
The New York Times Book Review
Witty, energetic . . . It's deeply satisfying to read a work of fiction
so informed about its subject and so alive to every nuance and detail .
. . [Smiley's] final chapters have a wonderful restorative quality."
A fast-paced, fetchingly detailed, wide-angled view of the world of horse breeding-and-racingand another lively illustration of Smiley's industrious literary work-ethic and gift for transmuting the products of her obviously extensive research into compelling fiction....The anthropomorphism occasionally verges on feyness ...But there are few such missteps, and in general the story prances along right smartly. Several horses here are given such names as Nureyev, Lorenzo de Medici, and Ivan Boesky. If one named Jane Smiley ever shows up in the racing form, you might just want to bet the farm on her.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Smiley's horses almost steal the show from the humans in this symphonic celebration of the byzantine world of thoroughbred horse racing--although a mischievous Jack Russell terrier named Eileen rules supreme whenever the all-seeing narrative eye pans her way.....This is indeed a big, busy, book, but there is peace at its center.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by ANNMARIE CROSS
What a hoot of a book! Yes, it is fiction and misses a few points of reality at a race track, but nothing that matters at all for what it is supposed to be. Want second by second reality at a race track? read Race for the Triple Crown by Joe... Read More
Rated of 5
by arlene walsh
Fascinating look at the world of thoroughbreds. Had no idea there was so much involved in breeding, raising and racing them, not to mention the buying and selling that goes on. Sometimes a sad account of where the ones who no longer have value end... Read More
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